Covanta facility wins EPA award for clean air technology
The Montgomery County Resource Recovery Facility, operated by Covanta, has received the prestigious 2014 Clean Air Technology Award from the U.S. EPA. The EPA has recognized the facility for upgrading its emission control system to an LN (Low NOx) system that has reduced nitrogen oxides emissions by half. LN technology was developed by Covanta as a retrofit for existing energy-from-waste facilities like the Montgomery County RRF.
“The innovative projects from this year’s Clean Air Excellence Award winners will protect air quality in communities across the country,” said Janet McCabe, EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. “These winners are educating our communities, inspiring organizations to take action and developing cutting-edge programs that will cut harmful pollution, improve public health, and make our cities and towns more sustainable.”
Covanta retrofitted the RRF plant with an improved emission control system in March 2009, making it the first publicly-owned energy-from-waste (EfW) facility in the country to use the LN design. Since its inception, the LN technology has proven to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by 400-500 tons-per-year from pre-installation levels. This is equal to the removal of roughly 50,000 passenger cars from the road – a significant achievement for both the local environment and regional air quality.
"I am especially proud that our Resource Recovery Facility, operated by Covanta Montgomery, Inc., has been honored for recognizing the potential of new environmental technology such as the LN system and taking steps to upgrade our operation,” said Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett. “Congratulations to all involved at Covanta for applying this innovative approach to helping reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.”
Energy-from-waste facilities are subject to emissions standards that are among the most stringent in the world. Under the Clean Air Act, more than $1 billion was invested in upgrades to air quality control systems at U.S. Energy-from-Waste facilities. When completed, the US EPA called the retrofits and emissions improvements at EfW facilities “outstanding.”
"Over the last two decades, Covanta has worked diligently towards eliminating environmental impacts from our Energy-from-Waste facilities, leading to dramatic reductions of approximately 95+ percent for most emissions. With our new technology, we now have the ability to significantly reduce NOx emissions to the lowest concentration in the North American EfW industry. We are thrilled to have received this prestigious award recognizing this breakthrough," said Paul Gilman, Covanta's chief sustainability officer.
The Montgomery County RRF is owned by the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority and operated by Covanta Montgomery, Inc. Since commercial operations began in August 1995, the Energy-from-Waste facility has:
- Produced 5.7 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to power Washington D.C. for six months
-Offset 10 million tons of greenhouse gases, the equivalent to the avoided emissions from almost 2 million cars
- Recycled 260 thousand tons of ferrous metal—enough to replace 1,136 miles of rail from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans
- Saved landfill space equal to waste piled 1.4 miles high on a football field
The Montgomery County RRF is a key component to the county’s integrated solid waste management system, which includes robust recycling programs. The County consistently achieves a recycling rate exceeding 50 percent— far above the national average. Waste that remains after recycling is sent to the RRF for energy recovery where up to 52 megawatts of clean energy is generated – enough to power approximately 38,000 homes continuously.
Recovering energy from waste after efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle have been employed is a critical component of managing residual waste. For every ton of municipal solid waste processed at Energy-from-Waste facilities like the Montgomery County RRF, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by approximately one ton. This is possible due to the avoidance of methane from landfills, the offset of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel electrical production and the recovery of metals for recycling.